The political economy of academic publishing: On the commodification of a public good
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This paper provides an institutional and empirical analysis of the highly concentrated market of academic publishing, characterized by over proportionally high profit margins for publishing companies. The availability of latest research findings is an important issue for researchers, universities and politicians alike. Open access (OA) publication provides a promising but also costly solution to overcome this problem. However, in this paper we argue that OA publication costs are an important, but by far not the only way for academic publishers to gain access to public funding. In contrast, our study provides a comprehensive overview of the channels through which public expenditure benefits big academic publishing companies.
Furthermore, we offer the results of an explorative case study, where we estimate the annual financial flows of public expenditures in Austria for the field of social sciences. In all, these expenditures add up to about 66.55 to 103.2 million ? a year, which amounts to a fourth of total public funding for this field. Against this background, we contribute to the debate whether and to what extent public subsidies are justified for economically successful companies.